Saudi Arabia: Can a Saudi have a Simple Life?

For a Saudi, whether living within or out of Saudi Arabia, life can be compared to living in a fishbowl at many times.  What do I mean by that?  What a Saudi does or how a Saudi acts is watched closely by other Saudis.  A Saudi has to be conscious of what he or she says or does as that will reflect not only on the Saudi but on the extended family.

There are all kind of “watchers” in Saudi Arabia.  The muttawa are probably the most overt of the watchers.  It is their official responsibility to prevent vice and protect morality.  As a result they are openly seen in the malls, shopping centers, outside of grocery stores and many other places known to have large gatherings of society.

The other “watchers” are comprised of peers, friends, family and the others in Saudi society.  Saudis can be judged by other Saudis by the way they wear their clothes, the way they walk or the way they talk.

I remember from my own personal experiences my own dear husband chastising me if I innocently and spontaneous reached out for his hand or touched his arm when we were out shopping if I wanted to show him something.  “Don’t do that!” He’d caution me.  “People are watching and will think you are a loose woman.”

I asked him why did it matter what others thought.  Most of them were unknown to us.  He told me that you never knew who could be watching, especially of the women who were veiled.  They could recognize us and form negative impressions that would make its way back to family besides tarnishing the family name.

Many times he’d ask me to cover my head while we were in the car if there was a lot of congested traffic around us for fear that someone who knew him would see us.  Not everyone in the extended family were in support of choosing to not wear a hijjab.  He also said that society would view us as more respectable.

By the same token, the many times we were outside of Saudi Arabia, it was common for my husband and other Saudis to express with joy how they felt free.  It was in no way meant to be against Saudi Arabia.  All these individuals are and were proud of their nationality and their country. But at those times, it would be my husband who would take the initiative to hold my hand as we walked through a shopping center.

Many times, I would hear a Saudi express “If I only had a simple life.”  My husband was among those.  I believe my husband meant that he wanted a life where he did not worry about perceptions of others.  He wanted to feel comfortable to say whatever he thought without a fear of repercussion if overheard by the wrong individual.  He did not want to fear a challenge by the muttawa if he was with me who chose not to cover her head.  He wanted to be comfortable and relaxed wherever he was and not only within the confines of his home or outside of the Kingdom.

I’d like to hear from other Saudis and what is their view of a simple life.

Saudi Arabia: Interviews and Upcoming Topics

I want to thank EVERYONE for all the great responses in my earlier requests for interviews!  I also need to ask those of you who have yet to receive interview questions from me to forgive me.  I am working on individualized questions for each individual based on location, nationality and situation.  If I am allowed to say so, I believe I have some very interesting interviews forthcoming from Saudis both within and outside the Kingdom and other expatriates too with their unique stories to share as well.

So this leads me to a question.  I typically feature two interviews per month.  However, I have found according to my blog statistics, that interviews are also among the most popular of topics.  Do you, as readers of my blog, wish to receive more interviews per month?

Additionally since it is near the end of the month, what kind of topics would you like to see me write about for the month of August?  I already have some written as I tend to do so but I take your requests seriously.  After all, if you did not follow my blog, there really would not be a reason for me to keep writing.

I thank each and everyone of you for your contributions and following.

Carol (American Bedu)

Project – Bring Carol’s Cats Home – Update

Day-3: We have reached our goal. See article.

Day-2: We have reached the 2/3rd mark in 2 days. Does anyone see a pattern here :)

Some interesting news of support:

- Blogger Aafke of Cloudragon posted on the fund drive with a unique offer. She will send a special painting 6″ x 8″ , with the subject of your choice, for anyone who donates $50 or more to the project (retroactive). The details can be found by clicking on her post here.

- The website this dish is veg featured Carol’s story and the fund drive on the site.

Day-1: Thanks for all the contributors so far, we have reached the 1/3 mark in collecting the funds necessary to complete the fund drive in less than 24 hours.

We appreciate your continued support.

Donations closed as we have reached our goal

Saudi Arabia – The Baby Muslimah

Sometimes you may simply see a photo and just want to share it.  This one touched my heart and showed me a much loved and a happy baby muslimah.  What does the photo say to you?

Project – Bring Carol’s Cats Home

As many of you know, Carol has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She had been away from the blog for a few days to conduct new rounds of tests. As a result she will be going through additional aggressive treatments, which will require rest and visits to hospitals. She is in good spirits considering the situation.

Carol is also very dedicated to this blog and had written a few articles ahead of time to keep providing us with interesting articles about Saudi and her experiences.

The regular readers of the blog know that Carol had to leave Saudi in short notice to take care of her late husband Abdullah during his Leukemia treatment in the US. Carol left her cats in Saudi Arabia and has not been united with them for 18 months now. We all know how dear those cats are to Carol and bringing them to her will bring her joy and lift her spirits  as she faces the challenges of her treatment.

A couple of friends and I started a project to Bring Carol’s Cats Home. We have inquired on the cost of shipping the cats to North Carolina. The costs will be $1600. We have collected a few donations from friends, but we are still short of the goal. I know some of you have known Carol through her blog for years and may wish to help in this effort. We have setup a Paypal account, which can receive donations either through Paypal or credit card to help raise the funds.

I am asking for the readers who can assist  in this effort to donate by clicking the link at the bottom of this write up. I will keep regular checks on the account and will close it as soon as we reach the goal. I will also keep everyone informed about progress through regular comments.

Donations closed as we have reached our goal

Thank you for your kindness,

Blog Moderator

Saudi Arabia: The Jerusalem Post take on the Mahrem System

I am not an advocate of the Saudi Mahrem (male guardian system) for women.  According to a recent poll on American Bedu’s blog, the majority of readers are not in favor of the mahrem system either.  However I do take umbrage when the mahrem system is misquoted such as in the Jerusalem post.  I guess I should not be surprised for it is certainly not the first time it has happened; I’ve even been misquoted in the past from this publication.

While I agree with many points of the Jerusalem post article in that it condones the mahrem system, the facts need to be straight.  According to the article, Saudi women “are not allowed to drive, inherit, divorce or gain custody of children; and cannot enter most public spaces without a male guardian.”

To begin with, it is against the law for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, period.  Even if a male mahrem said it was okay to drive, that does not mean the law can be circumvented.  Thereby even the wording of the statement in the article is misleading.

Saudi women can inherit.  In fact it is clearly stated within the Quran on how assets and inheritances are to be divided.  I have widowed women within my own extended Saudi family and they have inherited their share and in some cases, even more.

Saudi women can certainly get divorces.  Divorces between Saudi couples have increased in Saudi Arabia and many of the divorces were initiated by the woman instead of the man.

Gaining custody of children does depend on the husband as otherwise children of divorced couples do go to the father.

Where the writer got the idea that women cannot enter MOST public spaces without a male guardian is beyond me.  The women in my own extended Saudi family, Saudi female friends and colleagues all routinely went to public places on their own.  These places included the numerous shopping malls, grocery stores, hospitals, parks and more.

Last but not least the supposed thrust of the article seems to be how Saudi Arabia has chosen to use today’s technology to further track the activities of women.  For example, if a Saudi woman boards an international flight without a mahrem, then a text message (SMS) is sent to her mahrem advising him of her travel. I’d not heard of this before but it could be a new system in place.  I’ll give that statement the benefit of the doubt although it does seem odd and makes you wonder how an airline would have and know that specific data.  Just ask anyone who has routinely traveled in and out of Saudi’s airports or on Saudi airlines.

However, many women do need to have documents from their mahrem which provide concurrence to travel unaccompanied.  Because I had an American passport, I was not subjected to any questions or difficulties when traveling by myself.  Yet when another female family member came to the USA unaccompanied when my husband was receiving medical treatment, we had to arrange documentation for her travel.

In closing this article, I implore representatives of official media avenues to not mislead or print false information.  This applies to all media and not only the Jerusalem post.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Men, Foreign Women and Responsibilities of Marriage

Just when you think you’ve finally heard everything on the challenges and cons of Saudi men who marry foreigners, you get articles which pop up like these ones in Arab News and the Saudi Gazette.  Both of these are pretty much the same except with some slight differences.  Between the two articles the following Saudi officials have either spoken out against Saudis marriage to foreigners or expressed high concern:

Nizar Al-Saleh, Assistant Secretary-General of the National Center for Research on Youth at King Saud University: marriage to foreign women is not advisable for those who are seeking a stable family life.

Saleh Al-Khathlan, Vice President of the National Society for Human Rights: The government will not accept such marriage contracts and the foreign wives will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom.

Abdul Aziz Al-Ghareeb, a sociologist from Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University: Such marriages result in Saudis getting deadly diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis. Children from such marriages may also suffer from diseases such as autism and paralysis.

Ali Al-Hanaki, adviser to Awasir, an organization that looks after Saudis abroad (Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad), highlighted his society’s efforts in solving problems faced by such Saudi families.  Foreign women sought marriage to Saudis in order to obtain Saudi nationality, and not to build a family or married life. Some couples married abroad have contagious diseases, and illnesses like Aids, hepatitis and venereal diseases. Studies have shown that Saudi men may be led into marriage with women who are already married or work in prostitution. Saudis should turn to Saudi girls for marriage as that would also solve the problem of unmarried Saudi women, while we should also make things easier for our sons in terms of costs.

Towfik Al-Suwalem, Chairman of Awasir’s Board of Directors, referred to his Organization’s efforts to correct the legal status of such families by proving the legality of their marriages.  Yet after stating how Awasir can help, Al-Suwalem is then quoted as “We would like to present a study on the repercussions of foreign marriages on Saudi society and urged the media to enlighten the public on the negative effects of such marriages.”

So there we have the National Center for Research on Youth at King Saudi University, National Society for Human rights, Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saudi Islamic University and Awasir all speaking out against Saudi marriages to foreigners.  I cannot imagine these entities speaking out without the sanction of the Government of Saudi Arabia such as the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which are imperative Ministries involved in marriages of Saudis to foreigners.

I have difficulty understanding why a country let alone a country’s government be so involved in who can or cannot marry whom!  For a Muslim country, attempting to place such control over marriages is not Islamic.  Furthermore the reasons identified pertaining to the risks of such marriages are pretty farfetched if not downright preposterous!  What kind of an educated Saudi is going to believe that marriage to a foreigner may cause the birth of an autistic or paralyzed child?  How can an educated professor be allowed to make such an outrageous statement which portrays Saudi Arabia as backwards, uneducated and, well, I hate to say it but ridiculous!  Wouldn’t it be better just to have those individuals make a case choosing better words with logic instead of attempting to make them look like the back end of a donkey?  Saudis are not stupid.  Even those who question have access to professionals and to the internet.

What do YOU think?  I’m asking not only of the message which the article sends but the statements which have been made.

I also think the many comments which have been made to the article in Arab News are worth reading as well.

link for comments to Arab News article:

http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article86409.ece?comments=all#comments

And yes, I posted my own point of view on Arab News but I’ll have to wait and see if my comment was published.  I’m well known for saying exactly what I think…in addition to having had a beautiful marriage with a Saudi man.

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